As of date, child marriages are permitted under both the Law Reform (Marriage and Divorce) Arc and the Islamic Family Law.
An article by The Star reports that based on the 2000 Malaysian Census data, there were 6,800 girls and 4,600 boys under the age of 15 who were married.
From 2010 to 2015, as many as 6,246 Muslim child marriage applications and 2,775 cases of non-Muslim child marriages were recorded, according to the Syariah Judiciary Department of Malaysia and the National Registration Department.
Why does child marriage happen?
Malaysia is fast-paced in becoming a developed nation, but in truth, we’re still behind in terms of gender and social equality.
Let’s take a look at why this practice is still happening in Malaysia’s 21st century.
An NGO organization, Girls Not Brides, exploring the root cause of child marriages is complex and the practice may look different across regions and even within the same country.
Among the factors of why this happens include a mixture of lack of education, poverty and cultural practices.
In families where poverty is present, families and sometimes girls themselves believe that marriage will be a solution to secure their future.
Marrying away a daughter lessens the burden on the family as they have one less person to feed, clothe and educate.
In some cases the daughter’s marriage is a way to repay debts, manage disputes, or settle social, economic and political alliances.
A new outlook
Most recently, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail announced an integrated and comprehensive Children’s Wellbeing Roadmap to address various issues plaguing children in the nation, including sexual abuse of children.
This positive step was well supported by various Malaysian NGOs. Sisters In Islam communications manager, Majidah Hashim expresses that besides law reforms, outreach and awareness programs as well as education campaigns are also important to help spread more awareness.